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Groups Charge Desalination Plants Are Wrong for Corpus Christi

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Friday, November 4, 2022   

A Texas environmental group is sounding the alarm about seawater desalination plants proposed for Corpus Christi Bay, warning they could have disastrous impacts on fishing and tourism.

Supporters believe that desalinated seawater is key to a sustainable, drought-proof water supply for the region, but Robin Schneider, executive director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment argued that the briny waste that would be dumped into the shallow bay system would harm sensitive coastal ecosystems.

"There is a much more sustainable option," she said, "which is to use groundwater and water conservation, and potentially to prevent evaporation on the reservoirs by using floating solar panels."

The first desalination plant, scheduled to be built on Harbor Island, is one of four proposed for the Bay - two being pushed by the Port of Corpus Christi and two by the city. Schneider said a cost-benefit analysis commissioned by her group shows desalination is the most costly option for addressing the area's water needs.

Texas regulators have issued an environmental permit for the Harbor Island plant - which would be the first such plant in Texas - but Schneider said the federal government still has questions.

"Now, the EPA is telling the city and the port that they need to do an examination of alternatives that would be less damaging," she said.

The state's water plan shows that by the end of the decade, the growing population in the Corpus Christi region - along with a boom in manufacturing and petrochemical facilities that use water to cool their plants - will exceed the region's water supply about 10 billion gallons. Schneider said she believes residents should be alarmed.

"People will feel it in their water bill throughout the whole region if they go ahead with this 'desal' plant," she said, "and it will ruin the thing that makes this region special."

Recently, residents of the primarily Black and Hispanic community of Hillcrest filed a civil rights challenge to stop the plant construction. Since 2007, the neighborhood has filed three similar complaints to block a sewage treatment plant and bridge construction. The area has long been the site of manufacturing that produces toxic waste.

Disclosure: Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Environment, Environmental Justice, Waste Reduction/Recycling. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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